ROBSTOWN, Texas — The Robstown Early College High School Drone Team will be representing the Coastal Bend at a national competition for robotics this weekend.
During the Thanksgiving break, Team Atlas learned that they earned the opportunity to compete at the 2022 Bell Advanced Vertical Robotics Championship.
It takes place on December 3rd at the Bell Flight Research Center in Arlington Texas. This opportunity will be the team's first time competing at the event and if they win they get a trophy and a free ride on a Bell helicopter.
Aubrea Mungia, Efren Perez, Jayden Rodriguez, Daniel Salazar, Sebastian (Ty) Tagle, Asher Tooley, Nia Zuniga, John Galindo, and Emanuel Villegas are members of the group.
In late September they started working together to build a large drone. At the competition, the team must use the drone they built and other gadgets they've manipulated to complete various tasks assigned. Team Atlas already won a State-level competition and received "The Exemplary Team Award."
However, the work for the national competition is not over yet.
"We'll probably plan a late night, Thursday night before we head out to the competition," said Marietta Saenz, a teacher at Robstown Early College High School. "There's a lot of wires and components that come into the drone.
She added that a lot of times there's stuff that doesn't run properly and they find a way to track it back to the part. she said it's kind of like a maze.
"Coming from the other competition going back home, they kind of had a vision of how to proceed forward from that. So, they had to make necessary changes and stuff so that we could better be prepared for the national championship," she said.
Aside from teaching math at the school, Saenz also has a background in engineering, which makes the instructor a qualified coach for Team Atlas.
Saenz is also a former student of Robstown Early College High School years before the school offered students classes involving robotics.
"I was talking with someone this morning about opportunity, and that opportunity that the kids are getting now to mess with the things that I messed with in college. And I tell them, hey, you get the privilege of messing with this now, the 3D Printers, the drones, and all the wire diagrams and all of that. I didn't experience this until I was in college. So, definitely giving this opportunity at a lower level of education is going to open way more doors for them,"she added.
With new opportunities for youth, Saenz hopes it will inspire them to pursue careers in science, technology, math, or engineering (STEM). That's the plan for high school senior John Galindo.
He said he wants to go to college for mechanical engineering. Through Team Atlas he was able to develop new skills.
"When I first started on this, I didn't know what I was doing, but I worked ahead. When I soldered, I didn't know how to do it, but I got the hang of it and I've been getting good at it," he said.
Sebastian Tagle, a high school junior and another member of Team Atlas wants to pursue computer science or engineering after he graduates high school. He said joining the robotics team has helped him develop work skills and build relationships.
"I'm happy to be getting workplace experience and something I'll go into in the future. This is just paving the way," said Tagle. "It's fun working as a team. It's almost like a family now because of the amount of hours we spend after school."
The number of students able to join Team Atlas was limited to 8 to 10 people. However, the school is developing a new team to help build a ground robot that will be created to compete at similar robotics competitions. Robstown Early College High School also offers classes for robotics.